Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Shawshank Redemption

Movie Name: The Shawshank Redemption
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Larry Brandenburg, Brian Libby
Genre: Crime, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

"The Shawshank Redemption" is a singular case in the films of the 90s - upon it's release the film was met with a mild reception, and though it garnered 7 academy award nominations, it ended up winning none - however since being released, the film has been gathering a following and is now heralded as one of the best films of all times (it currently holds number one at IMDB). The film follows the story of Andy Dufresne, a mild mannered banker, who is arrested for the murder of his wife and lover. He is convicted to serve two life sentences in prison. Upon arrival at the facility, he forges a friendship with Red, a veteran prisoner who also specializes in getting different objects from the outside. Throughout his many years in prison, Andy suffers brutal attacks, until he finds himself under the protection of the ward, since he needs a good accountant to process the financial transactions of himself and several prison employees. Unbeknowst to everyone, including the close group of friends he has created, Andy has been steadily devising an escape plan, something he acts upon after serving 27 years in prison.
Frank Darabont  created a name for himself during the 80s, writing horror films such as Chuck Russell's "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" and "The Blob", and also Chris Walas' "The Fly II". "The Shawshank Redemption" was his first actual debut feature, following some directorial work for television - he chose an adaptation of a Stephen King short story, something he would continue doing with his next features, namely "The Green Mile" and also "The Mist". Darabont is a director who successfully manages to imbue the sense of intimacy into stories with large canvases - the ambition of "The Shawshank Redemption" is sprawling, and yet, it becomes a story about the resilience of the human spirit and the companionship and empathy built amongst isolated people. His sensibility allows him to focus on details and therefore showcase the details that actors confer to their characters. This is the case with this film - Morgan Freeman in particular, as the narrator and co-protagonist, becomes a steady and weary voice of reason. He introduces us to the world within the prison, and through his eyes, we are introduced to the complexities and resourcefulness of Andy. The film does falter in the typification of the supporting characters (the brash young man, the cruel and corrupt warden), but overall it successfully captures the times it depicts, and how the decades evolve. It's a smart, tensely built and well acted film, featuring good performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, a wonderful score from Thomas Newman and the mastery cinematography from Roger Deakins. A good film always worth revisiting.